EMPLOYEES OF THE Southgate Restaurant and Kopper Kettle stand together as one family at a fish fry benefit at the Kopper Kettle in Topsham on Wednesday.

EMPLOYEES OF THE Southgate Restaurant and Kopper Kettle stand together as one family at a fish fry benefit at the Kopper Kettle in Topsham on Wednesday.

TOPSHAM

Employees of a popular Bath eatery that was destroyed in a fire got a helping hand Wednesday, thanks to a benefit hosted by a Topsham restaurant.

All proceeds from Wednesday’s fish fry at Kopper Kettle will go to help support the employees of Southgate Restaurant and their families.

“Hopefully, this helps their employees get back on their feet, and hopefully they rebuild and reopen,” said Lisa Osgood, who owns the Kopper Kettle with her husband, David. “We wanted to do something as quickly as possible for them.”

Before the fish fry started, the restaurant had raised $400 to help the employees in a collection jar.

Despite ostensibly being competitors, there’s a sense of camaraderie to the two local restaurants. Both the Osgoods and Karl and Mindy Schaumburg would have celebrated the one year anniversary of buying their respective establishments in November.

“We almost made it a year,” said Southgate owner Karl Schaumburg wistfully.

Owning your own restaurant is “a dream come true,” Lisa Osgood said. “And I can’t imagine the devastation that they feel right now.”

For the employees, Southgate Restaurant was more than just a job.

“It’s awful. It’s very shocking. (Southgate) is like home to us,” said Doreen Beaulieu, who worked at the restaurant for 10 years and whose boyfriend owned the restaurant prior to the Schaumburgs.

“It’s more than losing our jobs, it’s the building … all of the regulars that came in are like family,” she added. “I just pray they rebuild, so everybody can start coming in again and get the family back together.”

In the aftermath of the fire, there has been an outpouring of support from the community, said Karl Schaumburg. Other establishments have already offered jobs to some of his employees.

“My wife and I are completely overwhelmed and heart warmed by all the support that the community has shown us and given us,” he said. “We had no idea that people felt so strongly about the Southgate Restaurant and our families. Words can’t express how we feel.”

Southgate Restaurant’s neighboring restaurants in Bath are planning another benefit later this month, with help from many establishments in the Midcoast area.

“It’s put on by Fiona’s Catering in Bath and the Galley Restaurant in Bath, and it’s going to be Oct. 28 from 3-9 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus in Bath,” said Karl Schaumburg. “There’s going to be a pig roast and a live auction and some bands there as well.”

Tickets are $10 and are available at both restaurants.

Karl Schaumburg said it was his hope that they would be able to rebuild, although part of that decision is in the hands of the insurance provider and the landlord. The cause of the fire was still under investigation Wednesday, according to the Maine Fire Marshal’s Office.

“We know it started in the kitchen area, up high,” said Sgt. Joel Davis with Maine Fire Marshal’s Office. “It’s not a cooking fire, but we’re still trying to determine exactly what was the first thing ignited.”

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